I Had a Dream

Last night, six nights into my bigu fast, I had a dream that may, or may not, have spiritual significance.

Before I describe the dream, let me explain that bigu fasting is a traditional Daoist spiritual practice. “Bigu” literally means consuming no grains, but it can also mean not eating anything at all. Advanced practitioners of qigong are said to be able to stop eating and live off the qi they absorb from the environment for an extended period of time. Lesser practitioners like myself probably have to live off their fat.

I may work up to a five-day total fast—if I can figure out how to work it in amongst a string of Saturday evening dinner parties, one of them at my house.

For now, however, I’m doing a “bigu basic” spring cleanse. In addition to grains, I’m avoiding a number of substances long-ago Daoists would not have consumed anyway, namely dairy, sugar and alcohol. In other words, everything yummy. I eat meat, fish and eggs; nuts and seeds; and fruits and vegetables, including legumes.

I began the fast during a two-day Spring Cleansing Seminar offered mid-March by the Institute of Qigong and Integrative Medicine (IQ&IM), home of Yi Ren Qigong. The seminar promoted bigu fasting as a means of enhancing the health of both the physical body and the internal energy system. Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun, the man who developed Yi Ren Qigong, taught us some exercises to facilitate fasting on the energetic front; Amy Putiri, IQ&IM program director and certified nutritionist, talked food specifics and fixed grain-free lunches.

Both counseled against fasting fanaticism.

“If you’re hungry, eat,” said Dr. Sun. “If you feel weak, eat.”

They told us to start fasting gradually, and to resume regular eating gradually, noting how each food added back to our diet made us feel. And we mustn’t forego fluids during our fast.

They also urged us to listen to our bodies and ask ourselves whether we’re really hungry or if we’re eating because it’s lunchtime and that’s what you do at lunchtime, or because we’re afraid we’ll be hungry later, or because we’re anxious, or sad or bored, or ….

I decided to fast because my digestive system could definitely use a spring cleanse, since I eat too much, too fast, too late in the evening and for all the wrong reasons—and since my stomach has been complaining lately. I’d like to see if I feel better when I’m not consuming grains, dairy, sugar and alcohol—plus, well, I’d just like to see if fasting enhances my qigong practice. And if I lose a few pounds, well, so be it—and hallelujah!

Now for my dream….

I was working at my desk in a newsroom not unlike the newsrooms I worked in years ago. For reasons not clear, instead of writing stories on a computer, I was using a blender to perfect a recipe for eggnog. The eggnog was very good. Not thick, yet creamy, and sweet, very sweet, with just a hint of some sort of booze.

I was happily testing my product when I realized it wouldn’t make money for the paper because I had no way to distribute it. I considered freezing it as ice cubes and putting the cubes in plastic bags, the way I do with the fertilizer I mix for my orchids, but I knew that wouldn’t work and decided I was going to have to quit my job since not having anything useful to do was too painful. My dream sort of dissolved as I was trying to decide what to do with the blenderful of eggnog—beautiful, creamy white, achingly sweet eggnog.

Overall, my dream was no more quirky than most, but here’s the thing that interests me:

I’ve gone on a lot of diets over the years without dreaming about food. What’s more, I am quite certain that I have never, ever, on a diet or not, tasted food in a dream. But that eggnog was so good, so sweet, that I can taste it still.

Does the dream have spiritual significance? On the surface, that’s a silly question with an obvious answer—no.

But one of the reasons I do qigong is to better integrate the logical, verbal, intellectual functions of my mind with the non-verbal aspects of my body and mind so that I can more fully understand what life is—surely a spiritual quest.

Perhaps the fact that my sense of taste entered a dream that my intellectual mind was able to remember when I woke up represents a bit of integration—and if that’s not clear to you, it’s because it’s not very clear to me, either.

For now, though, I like the idea that tasting eggnog in my dreams just might be spiritually significant.


Filed under Cultural Qi, Practicing, Progress, Promoting

6 responses to “I Had a Dream

  1. Peter

    Hi Barbara. I am reading your blog from your oldest post to the new. So I hope you don’t mind me posting thoughts on these really old posts of yours, things have no doubt changed I’m sure. But I’ll catch up soon to the new posts.

    Now…. your dream. I love looking at dream imagery as play. As toys you can toss around in your play-pen. I took the liberty of playfully tossing those images in the air to see where they landed. And in my toss they fell something like this…
    I notice your dream took place in the space of your life as a journalist. But now something different was happening in that space. Something a little odd. This eggnogg!!! and it is tasting so nice. ‘Eggs’ are also the symbol of new beginnings, the birth of new things. I cant help thinking that the eggnogg thing is related to your Qigong. Qigong is also kind of like something you ‘drink’, something that is mostly ‘internal’. And it’s kind of yummy. The blender for me seems to resonate with an image of experiential leaning. Of ‘mixing things up’ and seeing what the results taste like, and then making adjustments. And maybe that is a different way to how you’d ‘write stories on a computer’?. In your dream you are ‘happy testing your product’ (which is being made in the blender of experiential learning). But you see that you cant do it this way when ‘distributing’ your qigong learning to other people. As for distributing the ‘eggnogg’ (qigong) to others and it being ‘frozen’. Well, you talk about how you find words don’t really express the depth of whats going on for you in your qigong. Maybe you were worried about having to describe qigong to your students, or to us, in this blog. Maybe we would not ‘buy it’ in this ‘frozen form’?

    Anyway, to me you seem to be doing a great job in this blog. I can relate to challenges of writing about qigong sort of stuff. I sometimes write about what I find when exploring Tai Chi. Tai Chi for me is about bringing things back into wholeness. Words can have the opposite effect, of chopping things up in my mind. And so sometimes it a real challenge to write about Tai Chi in a way that leaves that quality of wholeness and expansiveness in tact.

    All the best.
    Peter 🙂

  2. Don

    Interesting, a wise practice but as far as I have understood ancient Daoist diet practice (bigu) there was no meat consumption at all, save maybe some occasional shell fish. Same with the Essenes, Indian yoga etc., meat should be avoided, that is what I read about it.

  3. Dana

    Wow! What a treat! Perhaps your body’s systems are all working together more cohesively than before and they throw resources at one another where there may be a “gap” – not that you enjoy egg nog daily but if that part of your body was missing the ritual or sensation of sugar then your mind identified that gap and filled it with a dream so real you could taste it and feel fulfilled. Wouldn’t healthy living be so much easier if we could taste our delictables this way- virtually?

  4. Dave Sinclair

    Hi Barbara,

    I enjoyed your bigu post here and felt compelled to remark that I enjoy about 5 to 10 minutes of Yi Ren Qigong bigu practice about two or three times a week…usually worked in near the beginning of my daily practice. I’ve been doing this for at least six months now.

    Bigu practice now seems like an old friend…and I like the visualizations, sensations and feelings of direct nourishment of my body in this manner. The reason I keep bigu short (at this point in time) is due simply to time budgeting applied to my practice.


    • Hi, Dave — I don’t know whether I will continue doing the key bigu exercise once I’m done with my bigu fast–as you point out, doing exercise A means you are not doing exercise B–but I have found that I really enjoy doing it without being sure why. Thanks for sharing your experience. I guess nourishment goes beyond what one is or is not eating and is always comforting.

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